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Being Happy at the Second Half of Life  (Whatever the Second Half May Be)

Many of us define ourselves with our jobs, our career titles, our accomplishments in life. There are some who have achieved fame and success at a very young age. Take a look at famous international singers and actors. There are even game developers who have achieved their first internationally recognized games with millions of downloads at their early teens. After that success, what happens next?

For some of us, we have achieved success through our careers and titles. When asked, “Who are you?” We get responses like, “ I am Juan Dela Cruz, the CEO for a fortune 500 company based in New York.” Or, “I am John Smith. I own a holdings company in the Philippines.” Is this really how we define ourselves?

We all grow in age—fast. When it’s time to move on to the next phase in life, how, then, do you define what success will look like to you?  We have seen so many people in the western world, who, after success, have not been able to discover who they really are. They fade until sadness eats them up, they wither and eventually give up.

When you have achieved so much, and then your achievements have been put aside, or you are not as famous as before, or you age, or retire…. what do you do?  

I am fortunate to have read the book, “From Strength to Strength” by Arthur Brooks. He is a social scientist and a professor at Harvard University who started his career as a professional classical French hornist, performing in ensembles in the US and Spain.

The second half of life just doesn’t happen. All of us need to prepare for it. I have known some people who look forward to retirement and wish that their company offers an early retirement. Yet when asked, “What would you do after retirement?” The usual answer is, “Travel, rest and do nothing much.” What if you retire at age 50 and still live to 90? What will your second half look like? What do YOU want it to be? 

Many of us, in the first phase of our lives, have become success addicts. Moving from a fresh hire to a CHRO, CFO, or even CEO after some years. Fame, money, being recognized, known, being provided, all the services that go with the title. And then what? 

In Arthur’s book, there was something about March Tullius Cicero, a Roman Stateman, lawyer, scholar and philosopher. Cicero has some thoughts about older age. First, the second half of our lives should be dedicated to service, not goofing off. Second, our greatest gift later in life is wisdom, in which learning and thought create a worldview that can enrich others. Third, our natural ability at this point is counsel, mentoring, coaching, advising, and teaching others in a way that doesn’t amass worldly rewards of money, power, or prestige. Note the part of that sentence: Doesn’t amass worldly rewards of money, power, and prestige. Can it really be done? You’ll be surprised, it can.

However, moving to the second half is not as easy as one thinks. Going to this phase without being prepared is extremely difficult and I have seen many suffer depression and anxiety because of unpreparedness.

Let’s start with a simple first step. 

Do you have friends you can rely on? Brooks classified friends into three categories. 

1) Deal or utility friends

2) Friends based on pleasure. You are friends because of something you like and admire about the other person.

3) Perfect friendship. It is based on willing each other’s well-being and a shared love for something good and virtuous. It’s a friendship forged around a passion for a social cause.

Many of us have utility or deal friends. I have 14,000 friends on LinkedIn and 5,000 on Facebook. But how many of them can I really call my pleasure friends? How many of them do I really know, and who knows me? 

How do we cultivate this friendship early on or as not to waste time and prepare for our second half?

In the next newsletter, I will give you an excerpt of what the book recommends, which I am implementing now. 

Remember, it’s never too late.

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